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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British TV > Girls On Top - Set One

Girls On Top - Set One


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Episodes: C+



A few years before the international success of Absolutely Fabulous, creator/star Jennifer Saunders was one of the forces behind Girls On Top, a quirky show about four unlikely women roommates brought together by circumstances of convenience to live in on apartment.  Before you think British Golden Girls knock-off, know that none of them are related, and that they are not as politically correct.


There’s the sexy one (Tracey Ullman, just before her breakout in the U.S.), the depressive (Saunders), the political Leftist (Dawn French, the lead on the show), and an American rich girl who wants to be an actress at any cost (a riotous Ruby Wax).  This set contains seven episodes, one of which is one never before released, which we could or could not think of as an extra.


The other regular is Joan Greenwood, as the not-all-there landlady who thinks her stuffed dog is alive, among other delusions.  Four-Play is a promising pilot episode that sets things up well.  These are interesting characters, made more interesting by their peculiarities, and played by some of the top comic talent around.  Shelley DuPont (Wax) actually pays most of the rent, spoiled by her rich-but-split parents, both quite well off.  Amanda Ripley (French) does her best to be the moral center of the group, though her ideology and suppressed desires can cloud her judgment.  Candice Valentine (Ullman) is the social girl who is always with men.  That leaves Jennifer Marsh (Saunders), who is lost in space.


The other shows, like Staying Alive, Hark, Ident. Candy Time, and C.O.D. work well enough, though they are not always funny all the way through, falling victim to the TV grind, but it turns out Ullman is not in later shows, though you would not know this from the box.  Who’s Ya Uncle Shelly? and Lower The Donkey suffer badly from her absence because a) this is a show built for all four leads, b) a new character should have been brought in to balance the absence out, c) the show loses its tension and edge, and d) the scripts show it.  This does make for an interesting study of how a subtle change can ruin a comedy, but the talent that remains cannot overcome these primary problems.


The jokes about politics, money, social class structure (more prominent over in England), womanhood, pornography, death, and other issues make this stand out from most of the awful, sickening sitcoms produced in both the U.K. and the U.S., which explains why this show has hardly been seen in the U.S. to begin with.


The full-screen PAL video images are nicely transferred and look good for their age.  The colors are especially good in the Ullman shows.  The sets are convincing enough, while they show has some nice outdoor moments.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is all right for its time, with jokes heard pretty clearly.  Though this is not as nicely transferred as A&E’s Mr. Bean (only a few years newer), this is still better than the norm for such a TV show.  BFS, the company releasing the DVDs, have a decent product here technically.  The DVD also includes biographies, TV/filmographies, and that extras show.


Of course, nothing hits people in more different ways than comedy, so that genre is the one people have to see for themselves above all others to see if they like what they see and hear.  Others may even enjoy this show more than this critic, but it is not bad and it will be fun to check out Set Two ASAP.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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